Divorce – Who Gets What When You Split?

Divorce is expensive at so many levels.

Common sense would suggest divorce cuts what you have in half. My experience with divorcing couples is that in the whole messy process both parties somehow end up with less than half, financially and otherwise.

It’s not always this way…it doesn’t have to be this way…it just too often is.

So, here are some things to keep in mind if you are contemplating divorce.

  1. Seek legal guidance as soon as possible. You may be split up but you are remaining married (though separated). I am not an attorney, so don’t take anything that I say as legal advice. But you may remain vulnerable legally and financially by remaining married, while acting divorced. Don’t take my word for it – talk to a lawyer soon.
  1. Seek financial guidance if necessary. There are a million ways this piece of advice could go. Sometimes a divorcee finds that he or she is handling money for the first time in a long time…if ever. And the amount of money they have available is generally much, much less than they’d grown accustomed to.

When it comes to dividing all the stuff, you can either come to a mutual agreement, or you can let a court do it for you. I’ve seen too many cases where this step (the agreeing how to divide the stuff) was the biggest stumbling block, so it just keeps getting pushed back farther and farther…and the issue just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Also, don’t let your income [get] cut in half while leaving your spending patterns unchanged. The trauma of divorce may be the reason you drown in sorrows in a credit card enabled spending spree, but it is never an excuse. Run up a stupid-big credit card bill and you’ll have to pay on it for a long, long time…no matter how good your rationale was at the time.

  1. Understand Social Security. If you were married for ten years or longer, you may be entitled to benefits based on your ex’s Social Security benefits. You’ve got to be unmarried and age 62 in order to claim. And unless you already get a larger benefit from Social Security, you could get an amount equal to half of your ex’s monthly benefit. Now don’t make any assumptions here – check it out with your local Social Security office.
  1. Research any pensions. If your spouse earned a pension during the years of your marriage, that’s generally considered a his and hers thing (it’s community property). The divorce court will usually direct how pensions and other retirement benefits are to be split by issuing something known as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).
  1. Don’t forget beneficiary designations. You may have the court documents declaring you divorced. You may have a freshly drafted will expunging all memory of your ex from your legal and financial life. You may even have video-taped evidence of your ex cavorting with that hussy down at the bowling alley. But if you forget to change the beneficiary designations on your company retirement plan and your life insurance policies, Mr. No-Longer-So-Wonderful might just get a windfall at your death. Take care of this easily forgotten detail.

Divorce is usually messy and it’s rarely easy.

Take steps now to reduce the messy part.

Offering you Wisdom on Wealth, I’m Byron Moore.

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